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CRAFTING AN EFFECTIVE ELEVATOR PITCH FOR YOUR GREEN BUSINESS

AND OTHER SOUND BYTE TIPS

San Francisco, CA • info@GreenBusinessOwner.com • www.GreenBusinessOwner.com Copyright Green Business Owner 2010

Executive Summary
The Elevator Pitch: Your Most Important 30 Seconds Thriving in a Challenging Environment: The Advantages of Going Green Document Summary

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Part 1 - Effective Business Communications In Our Sound Byte Culture
Why Do You Need An Elevator Pitch? Sample Good and Not-So-Good Elevator Pitches

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Part 2 - Create Your Elevator Pitch
Final Advice

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Appendix 1 - Glossary of Terms

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Crafting An Effective Elevator Pitch

Executive Summary
The Elevator Pitch: Your Most Important 30 Seconds Entrepreneurs need an elevator pitch like a plant needs water. Even the hardiest will eventually wither without one. Sound preposterous? It’s not. The elevator pitch summarizes your business in an exciting, intriguing way that gets clients, the media, investors, and even your employees excited about your company and ready to find out more. And quite simply, it’s your chance to make a great first impression. And we all know how many chances you get to do that. The name derives from the legend of an entrepreneur unable to get an appointment with a venture capitalist (VC), so instead he waits outside the VC’s office until he has the chance to jump on an elevator with the man. Now a ‘captive audience’, the VC listens patiently to the entrepreneur as he pitches his great idea ... for three floors. At the bottom, when the doors open, the VC raises an eyebrow and says, “I’ll have my secretary schedule you for next week.” Elevator pitches are not just used for potential investors. They are crucial for networking functions, trade shows, cocktail parties, and any other event where a potential client, employee, volunteer, partner, investor, or journalist may be willing to give you 30 seconds of their undivided attention. If you can quickly generate interest and curiosity in others, your business may benefit greatly ... all because you’ve honed a 30-second ‘elevator pitch.’

Thriving in a Challenging Environment: The Advantages of Going Green Your green business has something beneficial to its elevator pitch that your competitors likely don’t have: a compelling ‘hook’. You can leverage the increasing interest in green business and sustainability, crafting a succinct message among potential customers, investors, job seekers, and the media impressed, interested, curious, and wanting to know more. At Green Business Owner, we talk frequently about how green business is a classic “feel good” story. Weaving the theme of sustainability into your elevator pitch will greatly benefit the overall message, hopefully winning hearts, minds and dollars, too ... in a way you can feel great about.

Document Summary This document will walk you through the nuts and bolts of elevator pitches. In part 1, we discuss many ways an effective elevator pitch can benefit your business and how you should use it. We follow that with a sampling of good and ‘not-so-good’ elevator pitches. In part 2, we dissect the good and ‘not-so-good’ elevator pitches and boil them down to the essential elements you’ll want to include in yours. We then provide two tools to help you create your own elevator pitch: one for potential customers, and one for potential investors. Our final advice section advises you on the ongoing maintenance of your elevator pitch, and how to know when it needs a change. The document closes with a glossary of relevant terms for your reference, both current and future.

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Part 1 - Effective Business Communications In Our Sound Byte Culture
Why Do You Need an Elevator Pitch? Marketing communications (MarComm) include all the elements of your advertising/marketing/PR communications to your potential and existing customer base. MarComm includes such components as brochures, flyers, business cards, email signature, your website, newsletter, your social media outlets and purchased advertisements. It also includes you. For small businesses, personal connections and networking can be the most important aspect of MarComm. This explains the popularity of business networking groups. The inherent difficulty in networking is that your prospective customers are perhaps also meeting a lot of your competitors on the same occasion. At the very least, they’re getting a lot of messages throughout the night, and only a few of those messages will be remembered. But it’s not just networking events where your MarComm is competing with other messages. With smart phones and other mobile devices, high-speed Internet, Twitter feeds, text messaging, and pretty much every other business in the world trying to get their message to potential customers, too, it is a ‘noisy’ environment. As such, people’s attention spans for any particular message have dramatically dropped. So what do you say when you are first introduced to a potential customer? It’s your chance to wow someone, to make them want to know more, to impress them so much that they will remember you and what you do, and hopefully become a customer. Your time is limited. You need an “elevator pitch.” The name is derived from a hypothetical example of a budding entrepreneur trying desperately to get funding for his business idea, and while unable to get an appointment with an investor, has an unexpected opportunity as his or her potential funder steps onto an elevator with the entrepreneur, where the investor is now a ‘captive audience’ for the short duration of the ride on the elevator. Your elevator pitch is quite useful. It not only will help you directly make sales to potential customers, it will engage people to be excited about your company. It’s one of the best aspects of being a business whose mission contains aspects of sustainability. With a good elevator pitch, people who appreciate sustainability will be more interested, more attentive, more likely to remember you, and more likely to tell other people. Even if someone is not a potential customer, they may know others who are, and if they believe in your company, they might make it a point to pass the word on. Don’t forget: What you are doing is interesting and important. Sample Good and Not-So-Good Elevator Pitches The ride up or down the elevator may only last 15-20 seconds. But if you’re good, and have practiced your pitch well enough, it may be enough time to make the sale. Consider the following fictitious examples of good and bad elevator pitches:

Fictitious Example 1 - Cafe Organique Not-So-Good: At Cafe Organique, we serve pastries, croissants, specialty coffees, and desserts. We try to source organic as much as possible, but it’s difficult sometimes. We have outside seating on the sidewalk, and do some select light fare for lunch, as well.
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Good: Cafe Organique serves up delicious French-inspired cuisine like pastries, soufflés and croissants that absolutely melt in your mouth. People dine in our cozy interior or out on a spacious veranda on sunny days. Sometimes our customers just stay throughout the day, drinking coffee, meeting people, working on laptops, and eating breakfast and lunch. It’s a really fun environment. Fictitious Example 2 - EcoGardens, LLC Not-So-Good: EcoGardens offers a much more environmentally friendly alternative to other landscape maintenance companies. Two of my competitors, Martin Works and Blue Field Maintenance, both use large applications of chemicals to treat garden areas. Martin Works actually uses genetically engineered seeds that are unnaturally resistant to chemicals, so that they can put extra chemicals on everything and not kill the grass they’ve planted. Good: EcoGardens works with clients who are concerned about exposing their children and pets to toxic chemicals traditionally used in lawn care services, but still want a beautiful landscape. We create healthy, elegant designs with native plants and organic treatments that are both eye-catching and eco-friendly. Fictitious Example 3 - Jack’s Office Supplies Not-So-Good: Jack’s adapts to changing market demand in selling office supplies like stationery, paper, pens, and folders with high recycled content in many of our products. We’ve been in business for 14 years and are currently renovating our store to start offering office furniture. We even let people trade things in when they’re done using them. Good: At Jack’s, we provide small businesses with competitively priced, eco-friendly office supplies and a satisfaction guarantee. What really sets us aside, though, is our exchange program - allowing a company with changing needs to trade in reusable items and gain credit toward new purchases. Over the long haul, our business customers tend to save 20% on office supplies when they do business with us. Fictitious Example 4 - Jenna Pancote, Marketing Consultant Not-So-Good: I’m Jenna Pancote, and I do marketing consulting for small green businesses. I like to help businesses get their message out effectively and communicate with their key stakeholders in the sustainability community by implementing the power of consistency and brand messaging to achieve success. Good: I’m Jenna Pancote, and I work with small business owners who have a great green story to tell, but struggle to reach new customers. My clients have reported finding new markets they’d not even considered, and typically see a lot of new faces in their store after I’ve told their story. Fictitious Example 5 - Bill’s Green Clean Carpet Solutions, Inc. Not-So-Good: At Bill’s, we use a state-of-the-art cleaning solution called EcoGrinder. It’s got this unique combination of effervescence from hydrogen peroxide, which degrades to water and oxygen, so no chemical residue there, natural enzymes, and granular sand crystals that physically remove dirt and other debris from carpet. It all gets forced down into the carpet and, the cool part is, the effervescence then forces the crystals back up and they get sucked back into our machine, which then reuses them in the next pass. Our competitors can’t offer this kind of service - theirs always leaves a lingering chemical odor. Good: Bill’s Green Clean services residential and commercial customers with a chemical-free cleaning process. We use an advanced technology called EcoGrinder, and customers really love how clean their carpets get and how they don’t have to open windows or hear their employees grumbling about how bad it smells.

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Part 2 - Create Your Elevator Pitch
Elements of a Great Elevator Pitch Let’s start by reviewing the elevator pitches above. The good, the not-so-good, the just plain ugly. Cafe Organique - What is lacking in the ‘not-so-good’ pitch? Confidence in the product or service. The pitch is bland, and that’s not good for an eatery. The ‘good’ pitch shows that the person has tasted the food, loves it, and thinks you will, too. That’s confidence in your product. EcoGardens, LLC - The ‘not-so-good’ pitch spends more time talking about competitors than about itself. Focus on your company! This is your one chance to get your brand to stick with a potential customer. The more you mention competitors, not only does it make you appear back-stabbing, it has the unintended effect of making your customer remember your competitors’ names more than yours. You will have to be able to answer questions as they come up about why you are better than your competitors, but there is no reason to start the conversation there - rather, have those answers ready should the questions come up. Jack’s Office Supplies - How boring is the ‘not-so-good’ pitch? I was yawning just writing it. Your pitch needs to show some enthusiasm and energy for your business, or your customer won’t be excited about it either. Too much enthusiasm is not recommended either, but in a 20-second pitch, it’s hard to be too over-exuberant. Jenna Pancote, Marketing Consultant - What language is Jenna speaking in the ‘not-so-good’ pitch? Whatever it is, it’s not English, at least in any sense that potential customers who are not in Jenna’s field could comprehend. This is a fairly common problem for many entrepreneurs, who are experts in their own field, and speak the language so fluently that they forget others don’t. There is also a great temptation of trying to sound smart. Don’t overdo it. If you’re smart, it will come across just fine. But if you appear as an out-of-touch egghead, potential clients will mentally tune out before you can begin your next sentence. Using clear language and being comprehensible is tantamount to getting your message across. In addition, Jenna forgets to provide any sense of the experience of working with her. There is no ‘feeling’ involved. Her customers are just numbers and lines on a spreadsheet. Think how the customer might feel, or wants to feel, when they hear about your service. Notice that in the good pitch, Jenna uses clear language and conveys some of the experiences that her customers feel in a way that is relevant to new potential customers. Bill’s Green Clean Carpet Solutions, Inc. - Bill provides a level of detail that is quite interesting ... if you’re a carpet scientist. Most potential clients would have tuned out at the first mention of enzymes. Avoid the nitty-gritty! It is important to show your competitive advantage and the problem you solve, but the way you go about it is much more effective if you keep it at the level of your customer’s interest. Hook them in by simply saying what your competitive advantage is, and leave it at that. If they are really curious about your technology or how you make your product, they will ask, and at that point, you can give them more details. So let’s recap. Some critical elements of a successful elevator pitch are: 1. Confidence in your offerings 2. Focus on your product or service 3. Enthusiasm and energy that is contagious 4. Using clear language 5. Conveying a sense of the experience of being a client of your company 6. Avoiding in-depth technical details 7. Effectively communicating your competitive advantage 8. Clearly stating the problem you solve Another key element to remember, and something impossible to convey in examples like the ones above, is your deGreen Business Owner 5 Crafting An Effective Elevator Pitch

livery itself. You and your staff should have your delivery practiced and down pat, so that you can give it in a credible, positive way, and be able to follow up on additional questions or when a positive (or negative) response is expressed by a potential customer. Thus, we’ll add an ninth element: 9. Your delivery This is often described as a ‘movement signature.’ How we use our bodies, often very subconsciously, communicates at a level that is sometimes perceived much more clearly than what we are saying. Here’s how to hone your ‘movement signature’: 1. Brainstorm some adjectives you want your listener to think of when they see your body language. This could be ‘strong’, ‘confident’, ‘smart’, ‘insightful’, ‘powerful’, ‘focused’, etc. This will largely be a function of the kind of industry you’re in, and what you want people to see of you. 2. Perform your pitch in front of a group of people you trust will give you honest feedback, and afterwards, ask them what adjectives they’d use to describe your body language. Ask them if there was anything in particular about your ‘movement signature’ that made them identify those particular adjectives (i.e., did you take a subtle step back, showing a lack of confidence? Did you shrug your shoulders slightly, potentially indicating you’re not entirely sure about something?). 3. If the two sets of adjectives don’t match up, ask your target audience for suggestions to bring you closer to the adjectives you originally wanted. From this exercise, you’ll not only get great feedback on your subconscious communication, but you’ll have the chance to hone your pitch - including your body language pitch. Two Tools for Creating Your Dynamite Elevator Pitch As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. This is perhaps more true in networking than in just about any other kind of social interaction (except, perhaps, dating). Here, we present two different approaches to creating your best elevator pitch. The “sentence stem” is most applicable for pitching to potential customers. A sentence stem is the beginning (or fragment) of a sentence that has no formulated end. It’s a terrific tool for thinking about the possibilities you’d like to explore with your elevator pitch. We suggest three important sentence stems for creating a terrific elevator pitch. 1. “My clients are...” 2. “Who have the challenge of...” 3. “When they work with me, they have the experience of...” For Green Business Owner, then, 1. “Green Business Owner works with current or aspiring green business owners... 2. who can’t afford a traditional consultant but still need expert help with sustainable business strategy. 3. By working with us, they get practical tools that leverage the power of sustainability to solve their business challenges, at a price they can afford.” How’d we do? Now try yours. Note that you don’t have to use these sentence stems verbatim (word-for-word). Think of how you might use similar language to shape your own pitch with these cues. The second tool is more appropriate for creating elevator pitches for potential investors, partners, and other equity players (i.e., if you are looking for someone to buy your company from you). It is also effective as a ‘written’ elevator
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pitch - for an introductory email to a new potential customer or on the ‘about us’ page of your website, for example. This approach is a bit more complex, and the pitch will be longer, so Green Business Owner used some of our MBAskills1 to create an acronym (“OCCOCCO”) that is also a palindrome (spelled same backwards and forwards) to help you remember it. Offering - What is the product or service? Be careful not to go into too much detail. Keep this simple and straightforward. Customers - Who are they going to be? Comparisons - What is your offering similar to? Opportunity - What is the hole in the market you’re looking to fill? Company - Who are you and your employees, and why are you the people to do the job right? Catch - What is there to interest an investor--why would they want to be involved? Options - Provide a call to action by presenting multiple (2 is recommended) options to your prospect. For Green Business Owner, then, our pitch to an investor or potential partner using this tool might be: Green Business Owner leverages the power of sustainability to provide affordable coaching and consulting services to small business owners that save them time and money while solving common business problems [Offering]. We work with small business owners in the sustainability sector who face challenges such as how to recruit and motivate employees who share their values, how to raise money from investors looking to finance green businesses, and how to do market research on green consumers [Customers]. Our service is not so different than traditional consulting services, except that we are affordable for and focus on small business owners [Comparisons]. We think there is a big need in the small business community for Fortune 500 management consulting and strategy tools that they normally couldn’t afford, but that, with our approach, they have access to [Opportunity]. Our team is led by Scott Cooney (MS, MBA), author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill), and includes several MBA’s who share a passion for sustainability and have worked for some of the big consulting firms, including McKinsey and Company and Saatchi & Saatchi S [Company]. By partnering with us, you’d have the opportunity to revolutionize the economy by helping thousands of small, green businesses succeed [Catch]. If you’re interested in becoming an equity partner, we have room for someone with your talents, though alternatively, you might just consider an equity purchase and a seat on our Board of Advisors [Options]. Our pitch to investors there is 230 words, and takes less than a minute to say. Further, it communicates who we are, gives compelling reasons why someone would be interested in investing, and does a good job of not overselling it. The opportunity, then, looks legitimate, genuine, and, well, intriguing!

Final Advice You will want to have a couple of elevator pitches at your disposal. For a networking event, you will want to have an elevator pitch that focuses on your services. For a potential investor or partner, you’ll want to have a more high-level pitch that encapsulates your business plan and the long term profitability of your business. Go ahead and write them down. And practice, practice, practice. You’ll want to be comfortable and confident in your delivery, and you should be able to recite your elevator pitch(es), with little variation, from memory, in a natural and flowing way. Another thing to keep in mind is that there will come a time when your pitch has officially expired. You’ll know it when it happens. You’ll be at a networking event listening to others talk about their business and patiently waiting for your opportunity. Someone turns to you and says, “What about you? What do you do?” You start giving your
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This is our attempt to poke fun at our MBA brethren around the world. We truly are an interesting breed. Just one of our quirks is that we love to invent catchphrases, acronyms, and box-and-arrow diagrams. Green Business Owner 7 Crafting An Effective Elevator Pitch

pitch, but something goes wrong. You’ve practiced it a million times. You know it backwards and forwards. It’s worked so well for so long. But this time, your enthusiasm just isn’t there, and it shows. You feel it, and you can see it on the faces of others as they react to your subdued attitude with polite nods, smiles and maybe a response like, “That’s nice.” What happened? The only constant in life is change. You and your business are not immune from this universal law, meaning that your MarComm will have to change, from time to time, too. Periodically changing an elevator pitch is routine for a most small business owners. If your pitch contains language around a product or service that you’ve stopped offering or overhauled, then your elevator pitch needs to change, too. If your customers’ experiences don’t accurately reflect the experience your pitch conveys, it’s time to reevaluate. And if you can’t even convince yourself, it’s REALLY time to make a shift. No problem! Start at the top of this document and work your way through it. You need to get yourself excited about your business again, before you can make others get excited about it. The exercise should be fun and enlightening. You may learn more about your business, why you’re in it, and why you love it each time you go through the process of changing your elevator pitch. Fun is the key. If you enjoy it, your potential customers will likely enjoy the result.

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Appendix 1 - Glossary of Terms
MarComm - Abbreviation for Marketing Communications, which include all the elements of your advertising/marketing/PR communications to your potential and existing customer base. Sentence stem - A useful tool for generating content, a sentence stem is the beginning, fragments, or significant portion of a sentence, which eventually trails off so that you can fill in the blank. It’s an exercise that can help you generate a lot of different ideas around a particular subject. For example, “My ideal day is....” This particular sentence stem might help you decide what to do with the rest of your day.

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Crafting An Effective Elevator Pitch

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